A ferocious Tsunami spawned by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded slammed Japan’s eastern coast on March 11, 2011, killing thousands of people as it swept away boats, cars and homes while widespread fires burnt out of control. Dozens of cities, villages along a 2,100 km stretch of coast line were shaken by violent tremors that reached as far away as Tokyo, hundreds of kilometers from the epicenter.
A 10 m wave struck Sendai, deluging farmland and sweeping cars across the airport’s runaway. Fires broke out in the centre of the city. Japan’s NHK television showed a massive surge of debris –filled water reaching far inland, consuming houses, cars and ships.
Hours later the Tsunami hit Hawaii and warnings blanketed the Pacific, putting on alert as far away as South America, Canada, Alaska and the entire US west coast. Even for a country used to earthquakes, this one assumed horrific proportion because of the tsunami that crashed ashore, swallowing everything in its path as it surged km. inland before retreating.
The quake was the fifth largest in the world since 1900 and nearly 8000 times stronger than the one which devastated Christchurch, New Zealand this year, said scientists. Japan, the world’s third-largest economy is struggling to respond to a disaster of epic proportions with more than 1 million people living without water or power and the whole towns wiped off the map.
Tsunamis are caused when there is a movement of land on the ocean floor and this displaces water causing one area of water to be higher than another. The water at the surface starts to shift downhill and that is what triggers tsunami. Tsunamis tend to maintain their force as they travel deep through the deep seas at the speeds of a jetliner like a series of dominoes knocking over the dominoes in front of it. When a tsunami strikes a shallow ocean bottom it loses some energy to friction in the open sea and there is nothing to slow it down.
The most common and destructive Tsunami is caused by earthquakes. Generally, an earthquake of 7.5 of Richter scale or larger is needed to deform the sea bottom enough to displace water to produce tsunamis wave pulses that can travel long distances across the ocean. The earthquakes typically along thrusts faults, where an ocean plate is thrust under a continental plate , dragging it down until the fault ruptures, causing an earthquake that cause the sea floor to rise. Precisely that is what happened in Japan this time.
Apart from the horrendous impact it had on mankind the economy of Japan including the world came to a standstill.
World markets went into a tailspin on March 11, 2011 as tremors from the devastating earthquake in Japan shook investor’s sentiment already bogged down by the political unrest in the oil rich Middle East and North Africa. According to the United Nations a number of countries were ready to provide succor and help the tsunami victims. The earthquake that rocked Japan was felt as far away as Beijing. China braced to face the ripple effect of the massive Tsunami that hit the Japanese coast. Among those countries which offered help included India also.
Widespread damages to infrastructure and capital stocks will also hinder economic growth in the short-term. The good news though is that it will require massive investments in infrastructure and capital stocks, which will stimulate the economy as the country, rebuild itself from the ruins.
But there’s a serious problem: The Japanese government is already hugely in debt. Disaster in such scale means that the government will have to invest significant amount of money to rebuild what have been damaged. Thus, such a disaster striking at this moment certainly does not bode well for the government as far as public finances are concerned
A quick check on China’s latest export figure reminds us that Japan is the third largest importer of China’s goods after European Union and the United States. In the short-term, the near-shutdown of Japan’s economy will probably make a significant impact of China’s trade balances in the months to come.
Another related point is that Japan has been making huge investments in other countries, particularly in Asia. For instance, Japan is currently the third largest FDI equity investor in India in the latest financial year. Japan’s outward foreign direct investments to Asia amounted to USD 20.6 billion in 2009, which accounted for 28% of total outward foreign direct investments. As the need for funds is now arguably larger back home, the slowdown of foreign investment will have a slightly negative impact on other Asian economies.
The Indian Auto market particularly has felt the tremors of this disaster. The much awaited Honda Brio, which was supposed to be showcased on March 17, has been delayed indefinitely by Honda Siel India.
The disaster has also forced Toyota to delay indefinitely the inauguration of its second plant in Bangalore. Toyota had invested 3,200-crore in Bidadi with an annual capacity of 70,000 units just for Etios and Liva. The plant was supposed to be opened on March 15 and would have offered some relief in terms of waiting period of Etios. Although Toyota has mentioned that the manufacturing process of the Etios in India will not be affected by the Japan tragedy, it is believed that the waiting period for Etios will increase because Toyota imports Etios’s engines and transmission from Japan.
India’s largest Automaker, Maruti Suzuki has cancelled its 1 crore production milestone celebrations which was supposed to take place on March 11. The company is also assessing the impact of the tsunami on the components that it imports from Japan. The company keeps a 2 weeks buffer stock so the production will continue smoothly for the next 2 weeks. The Suzuki Kizashi and Nissan Teana comes to India as a completely-built-unit straight from Japan. But the deliveries of these cars were affected by the Tsunami at least in the short term
Although Japan has invested billions of dollars on anti-tsunami sea-walls which line at least 40% of its 34,751 kilometers coastline and stand upto 12 metres high, the tsunami simply washed away over the top of some of the some seawalls, collapsing some in the process. In addition to this, geophysical and geothermal properties of the earth are also partially changed.
According to Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, the earthquake shifted the earth’s axis by 25 centimetres. This deviation led to a number of small planetary changes, including the length of day and the tilt of the earth. The speed of the earth’s rotation increased, shortening the day by 1.8 microseconds due to redistribution of earth’s mass. The axial shift was caused by the redistribution of earth’s mass. The axial shift was caused by the redistribution of the mass on the earth’s surface, which changed the planet’s moment of inertia.
Shortly after the earthquake, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) issued tsunami watches and warning for locations in the Pacific covering the entire Pacific Ocean (Russia, Taiwan, Hawaii, Indonesia, the Marshal lslands, Papaua, New Guinea, Australia and West Coast of US, Mexico, Central America and South America). Russia evacuated 11,000 residents from coastal areas of the Kuril Islands.
The most alarming and damaging effect of the earthquake on March 12, 2011 was in the form of explosion of Reactor no.1 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. One of the main buildings of power plant crumbled to the ground. The cooling system of the plant failed shortly after the explosion caused by the earthquake meltdown occurred at Reactor no 1and 3.
The Fukushima 1, Fukushima 2, Onagawa nuclear power plant and Tokai nuclear power stations consisting of total eleven reactors were automatically shut down following the earthquake. Higashidori alone on the north east coast was already shut down for a periodic inspection. This catastrophe technologically could be many times more than the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 during the Second World War. A state of emergency was declared at a nuclear plant, where pressure exceeded normal levels. Thousands of people living near the Fukushima nuclear power plant were evacuated to save them from radiation exposure
New safety standards for nuclear installations and tsunami forecasting are needed. The degree and extent of damage caused by the earthquake and resulting tsunami were enormous. Officials have said that radiation levels at Fukushima were elevated before the blast; at one point the plant was releasing each hour the amount of radiation a person normally absorbs from the environment each year.
Humanity now faces a deadly serious challenge coming out of Japan –the epicenter of radiation. Intentional efforts to downplay or dismiss this catastrophe reveal the immaturity of western civilization and some of our most acute human pathologies, including our worship of technology and our psychopathology of denial. The widespread distortion and cover-ups to protect private profits, national and corporate interests, to fool and betray the people are unacceptable.
Over reliance and so called green option is gravely now in doubt and hence rethinking of the policy is required. In the light of this tsunami the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has compiled a draft for new safety standards for nuclear installations to counter the risks associated with tsunamis, calling for members countries to take a more scientific, computerized approach to anticipating the impact of future of tidal waves.
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